Understanding the world acts as an introduction to subjects your child will learn about later in their school journey, such as science, history, geography and religious education. It encourages your child to be inquisitive and develop respect for the world, people and animals.
Get out the photo albums and talk about your family. Reminisce about past events such as holidays (bearing in mind that a four-year-old has a limited memory of the past!).
If you can, visit a museum where your child can see historical objects and talk about similarities and differences between items that people had at home in the past and what they have now.
Look at old toys and compare them with toys today. You could do this through books, museum visits or even photos from your own childhood. Ask grandparents to get involved too.
Read books that show life in the past - ‘Peepo!’ by Allan and Janet Ahlberg is a great one for this, with all its beautifully detailed illustrations. Talk about what your child can see.
Investigate people who help us in the local community - do you have a lollipop person? Does your child know why they are important? Books can be helpful with this - the Topsy and Tim series has lots of examples of different people who help us.
Use role play or small world play to explore people who help us and the past.
Talk to other members of the family, such as grandparents, about family traditions at special times such as Christmas and birthdays.
Talk about how you may have different customs to your family, friends or your child’s friends. ‘We always go to Grandma’s on Christmas Day but Sam’s family stay at their house,’ or ‘We visit the temple but Jane’s family go to church.’ Encourage your child to see and celebrate differences.
When you’ve done something special, such as a day out or a family wedding, help your child make a scrapbook or draw a picture and talk about some of the things they recall and enjoyed. Encourage them to take this to school to discuss it with their teacher and classmates.
Explore different cultures through books, museums, festivals and photographs.
Go for walks! Explore your local area together and discuss which way you should go, e.g. ‘Shall we walk past the church or go round the fields today?’ Support your child to build up knowledge about the area where they live.
Children often love to draw maps (usually with treasure involved!). Work together to draw maps to show their route to school. You could make it playful by incorporating their toys - perhaps they need to make a map for their toy cars!
Get outside! Spend as much time as you can outside with your child, in all weathers if possible. Let them explore and investigate.
Keep a weather diary and talk about changes through the day or the year. Even just commenting on what the weather looks like each day is a good step to developing an understanding about the natural world.
Put a white sheet under a bush, shake the bush and look at the creatures that emerge. Talk about how they are similar and different.
Encourage your child to draw pictures of natural objects or take photographs of different plants around them. Can they compare the different shapes of the leaves?
Go on a sensory walk - talking about what you can see, hear, smell and feel. Use sensory trays to explore different natural objects and materials.
Explore changes such as melting and freezing. Cooking activities can help with this!
Explore ice and what happens to it when you sprinkle salt or food colouring onto it. ‘Ice balloons’ are great fun – fill a balloon with water, freeze, then peel the balloon off and explore.
Draw around the edge of a puddle with some chalk and encourage your child to revisit it throughout the day - what has happened?
Ask your child ‘why’ and ‘how’ questions.
Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know the answer to a question! Explore how you might find out together.